Dragan Babic enables design.

Design is politics

Whether we want to admit it or not, a large part of design work is convincing other people it’s actually good, and the right thing to do in the context of a project. 

There isn’t a designer or an agency on this planet immune to selling their idea to the stakeholders, it’s just how it is. No one is going to put their business on the line just because you are a good designer. The stakes are just too high for that kind of action. 

Much like any other profession in the world, design work is complex. One part of a designer’s job is to create whatever is expected of them: logos, websites, interfaces, business cards, etc. The other parts are what we usually call “work about work”, all the things which need to get done in order for this work to come to exist. 

And the interesting thing is, it’s actually the former which is the easy part.

See, being professional designers we are expected to know how to do our jobs. People assume we’re good at designing, and they don’t care about how design is created. All they see is the end result. 

This might be what leads so many designers to not care about the other part of design work, since it’s the product of design work which gets all the attention. If you’re an amazing designer, producing amazing design work, then all is forgiven, right? 

Well actually, no. 

First of all, most of the time you are expected to work with other people while producing your work. This requires you to communicate effectively, de-escalate arguments, make decisions, explain decisions, organize projects, provide feedback, set directions, etc. Lastly, you’re expected to present the work and explain why the people you’re presenting to should buy into it. 

As we can see, there’s a lot more to design than going into isolation, only to reveal your masterpiece to the world after a few days, weeks, or months. Funnily enough, it’s more likely that the work you produced in isolation will be off the mark simply because you refused to “participate in organization's politics”.

You can’t simply rely on your work to be self-explanatory. You need to take the time, and put the effort into helping the people who have not participated in the creation of said work to understand it. 

Being a good designer gets you in the door. It lets people know you can do the work. They trust you to represent them, their companies, products, and services to the world. 

Being a good workplace politician makes that work see the light of day because you have managed to make people feel comfortable with the decisions you have made in their name. 

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Created
2024-03-28

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Dragan Babic is a design consultant enabling creatively challenged organizations to nurture design, and work with design professionals in productive ways.

You are reading his blog.